You’ve taken the leap and embarked on a journey into the unknown. You’ve left home and traveled to some far off destination and in the process have had amazing experiences, learned so much about yourself and the world you live in, and you have come home changed. You’ve come home brimming with excitement and with a new-found perspective on the world. Then you arrive home to find that the place you left is still the same. The growth, the new version of yourself, the expanded understanding and personal improvement are yours alone. You have not only left home to travel, you have left the home you knew and existed within behind as well.
Coming home is one of the hardest parts about traveling and a topic that no one talks about. It’s almost taboo, a secret that we travelers keep to ourselves for fear of sounding ungrateful, uppity, or judgmental. When you travel deep and with purpose there grows an inevitable chasm between who you become and the world you exist in at home. This can create difficulties in interpersonal interactions as well as within your own mind and spirit.
The hard part is that if you try to talk about this, most people won’t get it. They will say, “you should feel lucky to travel, travel is a privilege, stop complaining,” or worst of all they will take your pondering of your relationship with home as some judgement on their life. That by you seeing your home in a different light you are diminishing the life they have chosen. It becomes isolating. It becomes destructive. It becomes a lonely place to exist in.
When you travel and have an authentic, moving experience, it forces you to change and see the world in a different way. I’m not talking about a beach vacation or an all-inclusive resort. I’m talking about deep, meaningful travel that challenges who you are and how you see the world. When you have these experiences, dammit, it is hard to come back to a home you don’t recognize. I am here to tell you, my friend, that is it ok. It’s ok to struggle with negative feelings about the place you come back to. It’s ok to adjust your perception of the world around you. It’s ok to want something different.
My husband and I struggle with this every time we go somewhere. Not because we don’t enjoy our life, family, friends, or understand how lucky we are to have stable jobs. We struggle because we are missing our “language” that allow us to feel connected to the world. I’m not talking about speaking Nepali, Mandarin, French, or Spanish. This is a language of the spirit where others know what it’s like to leave, change, grow, experience, and learn. This is the thing that is missing in our home country and what we crave the most when we return.
We don’t have a magic cure for this affliction or some profound words to take away the difficulty. That challenge is part of the growth that comes from putting yourself in the world. But, with that said, we have developed some general tools to ease the transitionary pains that come from profound experiences. I hope they are helpful for you as you go on this journey.
- Practice Gratitude
When you get home it’s easy to get into a negative headspace which can affect your actions and mental well-being. We have all been there. It is something of a loss when your travel experience comes to an end, like grieving. Instead of giving into those negative feelings try to concentrate on the privilege of travel and what you brought home with you from your travels. And I don’t mean that amazing piece of art or trinket that reminds you of the places and people you met. I mean the education and the growth you bring home. Focus on the experiences that have helped your life become that much richer, the lessons you have learned, the fun you have had, and see that as a positive thing and not something to feel sad about.
- Make the most of your new Skills
Travel changes you with or without your permission. It forces you to practice patience, talk to strangers and have an outlook on the world that is different. All of these skills you acquired while you were away can also be used at home. Next time your sitting next to a stranger on the bus say hello, try out new foods, or use the time your stuck in traffic as a time to reflect and be mindful. Take the skills you have learned from traveling and turn them into something that can help your community and yourself be happier.
- Keep in touch with people you have met
One of the best things that has come out of social media is being able to keep in touch with your new friends abroad. I love that I can call or chat with friends in Nepal via social media, or chat with friends from Kenya on Whatsapp. Traveling forces you out of your bubble which allows you to meet new people and have a better understanding of the world we live in. Foster those relationship, exchange knowledge and experiences and share your life with others whose life is very different than yours. That experience will enrich you as well as give your new friends a look into your world.
- Get to know other people who share your love of travel
Travelling the world brings an understanding that community is of vital importance for human beings, both practically and for quality of life. Often times in western society we isolate ourselves from those around us. When you return from travelling seek out your tribe, that community of people who share your love of world travel and can speak your language. It is nice to be able to sit down and talk about your travels, or where you want to go next with people who understand the need to see and experience the world. It is also good to have a support system when you feel disconnected from the people around you who may not share your outlook or desire to move around the world. Having that community can enrich your life.
- Take Time Out
One of the most enjoyable things about traveling is not being on a set schedule. You find that you have more down time allowing you to kick back, be mindful, and really appreciate and experience the present moment. When you are at home make sure and practice these same things; find time for yourself, read a book, visit a local museum, explore your own city. Taking time out will not only make you happier, but help you be a better friend, community member and person in many areas of your life. The present moment is the only time that truly exists and is the only time that we really have.
- Say YES to things
When you travel you cultivate an “up for anything” attitude. You tend to say yes to things you might not have at home. Things like paragliding, climbing a mountain, or trying different types of food. Just because we are at home does not mean that needs to stop. Join an aerial class, take a mountaineering course, or try out mountain biking. If you want something less adventurous learn a new language, volunteer (this should not be something we just do abroad), or join a team of some sorts. Keep that adventurous spirit alive, it will ease the transition as you return.
- Book your Next Trip
The best antidote to that deep-rooted desire to be nomadic is to book your next trip. Even if you can’t go on some epic, around the world adventure you can nurture your nomadic spirit in other ways. Take a long road trip, go camping, explore a neighborhood you don’t visit often, or finally go and visit that friend you haven’t seen in a while. Make sure and give yourself another trip to look forward to. His Holiness The Dhali Lama gives us this advice, which I agree with wholeheartedly: “Once a year go some place you have never been before.”